The little boy’s idea of heaven

Today’s writing prompt and my response.

Day four of this week’s challenge. The story starts here.
The little boy’s idea of heaven …

The girl followed the cat into the hall, across to the kitchen and through to the utility room. Robert followed the girl. He must ask her name, given she had his. No, bad idea. She’d be gone soon.

In the utility room, the cat jumped onto the bench, stood on its back legs and tapped at a cupboard door. Robert’s heart sank as the girl reached in and pulled out a pouch of cat food.

‘Oh, nice,’ she said, reading the list of all natural ingredients. She grabbed several and stuffed them into her coat pocket before saying, ‘No time to lose, let’s go find the old man,’ in a tone which suggested he’d made a promise that if the cat did what she said, Robert would to.

It had been an age since Robert visited his grandfather’s grave, which was the justification he had for leading the girl along the dark track to the ancient church half a kilometre away. A rising moon gave sufficient light to see by, although the girl strode along as if it was full daylight on an empty city footpath. The traitorous cat trotted by her side, head and tail up.

‘It’s over this way.’ Robert tilted his head and strode between the falling tombstones to the newer part of the churchyard. The bee-friendly grasses and wildflowers had recently been cut, easing their way.

He came to his grandfather’s grave, stood quietly, hands clasped in front of him. Next to him, the girl cradled the cat in her arms. Its purring was the loudest, the only, noise.

Robert gestured at the tombstone. ‘In God’s Heaven,’ he quoted. The night was too dark to read by, but he knew the inscription by heart.

Memory took hold. Not of his grandfather. His memory was of his idea of heaven when he was a little boy. You would have thought a small boy’s heaven to be chock-filled with toys, ice-cream and circuses. Not his. His was a serene, country landscape with stone cottages, old barns, dusty roads and hedgerows bursting with colour. A peaceful idyll, sunny and safe.

Not too different from where he lived now, except the here and now came with the smells of the chicken farm across the way, the grinding of truck gears at odd hours of the day and night and boy racers killing themselves – and others – between the colourful hedges.

boy lying on grass with fox on his stomach

What set his heaven truly apart were the animals. Field and farm alike, they ranged freely, and he held long conversations with them – foxes giving advice about school, cows telling him to be patient with his mother, she had a lot on her plate, and …

The lamb the girl mentioned …

He peered at her. Her smile was smug.

‘Ah,’ she said. ‘You’re beginning to remember.’

He ignored this, saying instead, ‘So do we dig the old man up? Is that the plan?’  The sneer in his voice was more to convince himself that nothing out of the ordinary was happening, rather than to belittle the girl.

She shook her head, her smile widening.

‘No need, Bobby.’

It wasn’t the girl who spoke. The voice came from behind him, and it was warmly familiar, from twenty five years ago.

Find the next bit of the story here.

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